Vinyl siding

Vinyl siding is very much like aluminum siding in size, shape, application, and appearance. Quite often close examination of the siding is needed to tell the difference between the two. The coloring in vinyl siding is embedded in the material and is the same throughout its thickness. Since the coloring in aluminum siding is only on the surface, an end cut or scratch in the aluminum reveals the silvery color of the bare metal. To tell whether the siding is vinyl or aluminum, look at an end cut or joint.

Vinyl siding is usually installed with an insulation backer board behind each sheet. In addition to insulation value, the board adds rigidity and strength. Vinyl siding normally does not dent from impact; it merely flexes and springs back to its original shape. However, during very cold weather, the siding becomes brittle, and a hard blow could crack or shatter it. When inspecting vinyl siding, check for cracked and broken sections and loose and sagging sections with open joints.

Vinyl siding expands and contracts as the temperature changes. When the siding is improperly nailed, this movement usually results in waviness and blisters in the vinyl panels. If you see this type of unevenness in the vinyl panels, record the fact on your worksheets for future correction.

Asbestos-cement shingles

As with roofing shingles, asbestos-cement siding shingles were manufactured by combining asbestos fibers with Portland cement under pressure. These shingles are currently called mineral-fiber shingles. Although the shingles are no longer manufactured, they can be found on many homes in a variety of textures and colors. Since the shingles are unaffected by the weather and are immune to rot and termite activity, they require very little maintenance. However, the shingles are brittle and can be damaged and cracked by impact. The lower courses of the shingles are most vulnerable to damage. Usually damaged shingles are replaced rather than repaired. When inspecting asbestos shingle siding, look for cracked, chipped, broken, loose, and missing shingles. Shingles that have slipped out of place were usually improperly nailed, or the nails were not rust-resistant and deteriorated. If the condition is caused by the latter, additional shingles will slip out of place in the future, and maintenance should be anticipated.

Asbestos-cement shingles were generally installed with sheathing-paper-backer strips behind the vertical shingle joints. These backer strips provided additional protection against water penetration. You might find sections of backer strips that have slipped out of place or are hanging loose between the shingles. Since the shingles were normally installed over sheathing paper, which is waterproof, replacing the loose backer strips is usually not necessary.

Asphalt siding

Asphalt siding is made by impregnating an organic felt material or glass-fiber mat with asphalt. The siding is available as shingles or as a roll. The exterior surface of the roll material is coated and embossed so that from a distance it looks like bricks. As the siding ages, it becomes dry and brittle, and cracks easily. For the most part, asphalt materials are no longer used for siding or residing residential structures. However, they can be found on existing buildings. When inspecting asphalt siding look for cracked, chipped, and eroded sections. Also check for open and lifting joints and loose, torn, and missing sections. If you find any areas in need of repair or replacement, record them on your worksheet.


A stucco finish on an exterior wall is basically a concrete sheet that has been built up in layers. It is usually made from a mixture of cement, lime, sand, and water. Stucco is weather-resistant, immune to termite and fungus attack, rigid, and durable-qualities that are desirable for an exterior wall finish. In addition, it can be applied to curved or irregularly shaped surfaces and to wood-frame walls that have been prepared with backing (sheathing) paper and metal lath. The backing paper is needed to resist water penetration through open joints or cracks that might develop in the stucco. The metal lath provides the means for bonding the stucco mix.

Stucco is generally applied in two coats on a masonry wall and three coats on a wood-frame wall. The minimum thickness for a three-coat wall is 7⁄8 inch; for a two-coat wall, 5/8 inch. The top layer of stucco is the finish coat and can be relatively smooth or have a rough texture. It can be prepared in a wide range of colors or painted.

Because stucco is a rigid material, cracks can develop as a result of a slight movement of the house. (See FIG. 5-3.) Movement occurs from foundation settlement and from wind forces. You generally find more cracks in stucco on a wood-frame house than on a solid masonry house. Shrinkage of the wood-framing members creates stresses in the stucco that often result in cracks. Once a crack develops, water can penetrate into the wall during a driving rain and can cause problems. In time, the portion of the metal lath around the crack rusts and deteriorates, and, depending on the condition of the backing paper, the wood framing and sheathing might rot. In addition, in cold climates, accumulated water behind the stucco can freeze, causing further deterioration as a result of frost action.

Real Estate Home Inspection photographs of house defects

All cracks should be sealed. Hairline cracks and cracks up to 1⁄16 inch generally can be sealed by coating them with a cement-based paint. The only difficulty is in matching the color of the wall. Larger cracks can be sealed by filling them with a mortar mix. Broken and loose sections of stucco must be rehabilitated by a skilled craftsman. When inspecting a stucco wall, look for chipped, cracked, loose, and broken sections. If you find areas in need of repair, record their location on your worksheet. Stucco does not require painting. But if it has been painted, check the condition of the paint. Once a stucco wall has been painted, periodic repainting will be required for cosmetic purposes, although at less frequent intervals than wood.

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